Over the last few months, we’ve been sharing weekly accessibility tips via our social media channels. To make them easier to access (dare we say, more accessible) we’re compiling them here to give you a quick guide on small steps you can take to make your home, office, etc. a bit more accessible to people with disabilities:
1. Inclusive Language
Language is an incredibly powerful tool and how we use our language to address others is deeply important. There are two main means of addressing a disabled and/or autistic person – by using ‘person-first’ or ‘identity-first’ language.
Person-first language describes the person first (ie. Ciara has autism; Jack has a disability). Identity-first language unites a person’s identity with their diagnosis (ie. Ciara is autistic; Jack is disabled). People using identity-first language tend to consider themselves a part of the disability community and identify as disabled.
Overall, the more commonly preferred language is identity-first. However, there are many people that are disabled or autistic that prefer person-first language. As a default, our organisation tends to use identity-first language as this is more widely preferred, however when dealing with an individual, it’s always best to simply ask which language they prefer.
2. Social Media & Digital Accessibility
Social Media & Digital Accessibility: When posting on social media, be sure to keep those with learning differences, intellectual disabilities, visual impairments and members of other disability communities in mind! Viewing text and images on a screen can be very difficult for some people and a few small tweaks can make things much more accessible.
First, we have ‘Camel Case’. Just like a camel has humps, capitalise each word in your hashtags to allow readers (and screen-reading devices) to read each word more easily. For example, instead of formatting our hashtag as, ‘#supportblossom’, format it as, ‘#SupportBlossom.’ This makes it easier to differentiate between words and, therefore, more accessible to everyone!
Second, use alt-text/image descriptions. When posting images on most social media platforms, there is an option to add alt-text or image descriptions for each image. Adding a brief summary of what is displayed in the image will allow people with visual impairments to participate in your social media and understand what is being displayed.
Third, when producing documents and e-mails, be sure to use an accessible font type and size. Font should be no smaller than 12pt to ensure as many people as possible can read it. For font type, standard fonts such as Arial, Verdana and Tahoma are usually some of the easiest-to-read. Learn more at: https://accessibility.psu.edu/legibility/fontface/
3. Event Planning
Planning an event can be a complicated process and people with disabilities are often left-out of the planning process. You may recall last year when a wheelchair-using Minister from Israel was unable to attend a day of the UN’s COP26 Summit in Glasgow due to a lack of accessible entrances. This was an unfortunate, high-profile example of how even the most well-resourced of organisations can inadvertently exclude the disabled community.
While there are a huge number of potential tweaks you can make to your event to ensure accessibility, here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Have an accessibility statement on the registration form/invitations, welcoming the disabled community and explaining your intentions towards supporting them.
- On the form/invitations, include contact details for a point of contact responsible for event accessibility.
- Provide event materials in large, easy-to-read print, using the above font suggestions.
- Visual aids paired with text can also help with understanding.
- Confirm a time and place in advance of any meeting or outing to allow for proper planning.
- For larger events, consider creating a sensory-reduced space where attendees can go to enjoy a few moments of low-stimulation in a quiet setting.
- Finally – be sure to ask! Checking-in with disabled attendees in advance will allow for proper communication and enable your event to be as accessible as possible.
4. Reducing Time Stress
Time-limited tasks are at times a barrier to inclusion for disabled people and can create unnecessary anxiety. Time-limited tasks are more common than we may realise – some common examples include sports, TikTok, exams, online forms and cooking. People with mobility issues, intellectual disabilities, visual impairments and a wide array of other differences may have difficulty with time-limited activities, creating pressure and stress.
When planning an event or activity which includes a time limit, be sure to consider whether or not the time limit is necessary. If it is, consider how you can support those experiencing time stress. Adding timing reminders throughout or offering extensions for those who need more time are reasonable accommodations that are easy to make.
5. Reasonable Accommodations
Our world has been built without disabled people in mind, creating barriers to accessibility in many activities. Reasonable accommodations are changes made to remove these barriers, such as ramps, captions, braille, time extensions and illustrated text.
Reasonable accommodations can also make things better for everyone of all abilities! Consider the Curb/Kerb Cut Effect – in the 1970s, curbs/kerbs were cut-down at intersections across California, USA to provide easier street access for those with disabilities. Beginning as a project to support the disabled community, the effects of this can now be seen in countries across the world, including Ireland. This small, reasonable accommodation made life a bit better for everyone, including delivery people, parents with buggies, the elderly and more!
Keeping an eye out for small ways that our world can be altered to include everyone and amplifying the ideas of those representing the disabled community are easy ways to ensure we’re continuing to evolve by involving everyone.
Creating accessible environments doesn’t always involve major changes – by offering variety with something as basic as seating, you can ensure you’re including as many people as possible. No one likes an uncomfortable chair, but for some members of our community, seating can be a barrier to inclusion. People with mobility issues, chronic conditions, attention issues and more can benefit from a variety of seating options.
While you can always ask your guests what seating they might prefer, if you’re organising an event, it’s best to offer a variety of seating types. In the Blossom Ireland offices, we offer rolling office chairs, fixed chairs, beanbags, yoga balls, couches, stools and a wooden bench as seating options, which allow us to cater to as many people as possible.
Becoming fully-accessible is a journey and we’re all constantly improving. We won’t get it right every time, but it’s important to try our best to include everyone, no matter their ability. By making the world better for one group, we make it better for us all.
If you have any questions about accessibility, please feel free to get in touch with the Blossom Ireland team at: firstname.lastname@example.org.